S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com ORDNANCE Atomic Cannnon Page keywords = ordnance Aberdeen Proving Ground Jarrett Churchill Yuma tank armor track history self-propelled artillery gun cannon rifle recoil HARP Maryland airplane bomb shell cartidge casing ammunition ammo FLZ Franz Langenhan Zella Mehlis Kropatschek Werndl Steyr Gras Lebel Colt Woodsman Comet Authenticast

Updated:  08 Jan 2015; 10:05  ET
[Page created 26 Aug 2003;

[original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]
URL:  http://sbiii.com/ordatcan.html
[was at "home.att.net/~Berliner-Ultrasonics/ordatcan.html"]

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher



note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.


S. Berliner, III's

sbiii.com

ORDNANCE
Atomic Cannon Page

OrdBomb


[This continues on Ordnance Atomic Cannon Continuation Page 1).]

Please refer to the HELP section on Continuation Page 3.

INDEX:

On the main Ordnance page:
  Unindexed ORDNANCE APOCRYPHA.

On Ordnance Continuation Page 1:
  MORE ORDNANCE APOCRYPHA
    (Moved from Ordnance Page 2 on 12 Feb 2002).
  More on the 280mm Atomic Cannon - moved to this page 26 Aug 2003.

On Ordnance Continuation Page 2:
 
RAILROAD GUNS.
  ATOMIC CANNON - moved to this page 26 Aug 2003.
  SMALL ARMS.

On Ordnance Continuation Page 3:
  CALIBER (Calibre).
  Anzio Annie.
  SMALL ARMS (moved from Page 2 on 13 Apr 2000)
  BIBLIOGRAPHY
  Russian Armor.
  HELP!

On Ordnance Continuation Page 4:
  MISFIRES, HANGFIRES, and JAMS
  Drake Gun/Cannon
  Coastal Defense Guns at Fort Casey
  M274 Mechanical Mule

On this Atomic Cannon Page:
  ATOMIC CANNON
  Armed Forces Day Demonstration, APG, 19 May 1956   link-add (07 Jan 2015)
  1944 240mm Prototype Atomic Cannon   link-add (07 Jan 2015)
  Atomic Cannon CQ (Seek You = HELP!)

On the Atomic Cannon Pictures Page:
  Battery B, 265th Field Artillery Battalion, Baumholder, Germany, 1955 and 1956.
  Atomic Cannon Training Manual.

On the Atomic Cannon Continuation Page 1:
  Atomic Cannon in Asia!

Atomic Cannon Pictures Page.

On the 175mm "Baby" Atomic Cannon Towed Mount Page (added 12 Jan 2013).
  175mm "Baby" Atomic Cannon Towed Mount
  Atomic Cannon Background.

On the Ordnance Railroad Guns Continuation Page:
  RAILROAD GUNS
    (continued from Ordnance Continuation Page 2)

Ordnance Models Page.

The Ordnance Supergun Page

Comet Metal Products Authenticast Models Page.


- WWII tank ID plates and nameplates available on cont. page 2!

INDEX:

As noted on Page 1, army ordnance buffs should visit the Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground off Routes 40 and I95 just south of Havre de Grâce and the Susquehanna River Toll Bridge - very much worth the time (and allow plenty of that, in proportion to your interest!).  There are acres of tanks and armored vehicles, domestic and foreign, of all eras, Anzio Annie, a 280mm Atomic Cannon, a 16" coastal defence gun, a V1 buzz bomb and a V2 rocket, and a great indoor museum with a fine small arms collection!  This fabulous museum is an absolute must for the ordnance devotée!  More about the Museum and its history is on Page 1.

    [Check first - the Museum is moving to Ft. Lee, Virginia!]

Here is Anzio Annie (the 280mm German "Leopold" K5 railroad gun before she came to APG:

Anzio Annie (Leopold)
(Ordnance Museum Foundation Photo)

Annie was the design basis for our 280mm Atomic Cannon.

[More on Anzio Annie on Page 3.]



Atomic Cannon

(moved from Ordnance Continuation Page 2 on 26 Aug 03)

Actually, our own M65 280mm Atomic Cannon was also a Schnabel@ vehicle; the T-131 cannon was mounted on a bridgework carried between two huge rubber-tired 6x6 truck tractors with load arms (the T-10 Heavy Artillery Transporter); the front truck has load arms pointed to the rear while the rear truck had the load arms pointed toward the front.  When they were deployed in Germany after the war (WWII), as the production M65, they tipped over with appalling regularity while traversing tight turns in tiny towns {a tongue-tripper}.

A new (24 Feb 2001) Web friend in Germany sent me these four photos (by his friend) of an M65 set turning a corner, ca. 1955-56, in Geislingen an der Steige, a little town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, located by the railway line from Stuttgart to Ulm (that small girl and the bicyclist are absolutely frozen in their tracks!):

M65 55-6 Germany - 1 M65 55-6 Germany - 2

M65 55-6 Germany - 3 M65 55-6 Germany - 4
(Photos by Frieder Welle, Neckarstrasse 59, 73329 Kuchen/Fils
(a little village near Geislingen) - all rights reserved.)

(Thumbnail images; click on photos for larger images.)

[09 Dec 2004 - This is what I love about the Net; these images were lost and my source,
after three years, responded instantly and replaced them!]

It looks as if it were monstrously difficult to manoeuver these beasts but steering the rear unit was actually little different than steering the rear of an articulated "hook-and-ladder' fire truck; any experienced fire department "tillerman" could easily get the hang of it.  The big difference was that the rear tractor was powered, so that the rear unit could easily overpower the rig and, on a tight turn, push it right over.  Actually, the particular intersection shown is quite broad, with a convenient chamfer on the inside corner (probably very carefully selected for that very reason), and the turn was quite moderate; it was on the more typical tiny streets, often with a well or ancient monument smack dab in the middle of an intersection, that even the most skillful drivers came to grief.

The gentleman who sent these photos wrote that the "noise of the engines in the narrow street" was "tremendous!"  I had forgotten how loud they were; my tests at APG were all out in the open but a vague memory of the units running between the facilities buildings stirs in the innermost recesses of my mind.  I am so very grateful for these photos; they, or similar ones, were published here in the U.S. at that time but I never thought I'd see such on my site!  I have a ca.-1945 HO* model:

Comet 'Authenticast' Atomic Cannon Model - ca. 1945

This 50+-year-old AuthenticastAuthenticast model still looks reasonably good; it's 10" (72½') long in HO* scale and was made by Comet Metal Products of Richmond Hill (Jamaica area), Long Island, New York, as part of their WWII tank and armored vehicle series (and is older than the "M65" production designation); Authenticast now has its own separate page.  Here's what's left of the original box:

Comet 'Authenticast' Atomic Cannon Box - ca. 1945
(Ca. 1945 model and box and 1999 photos by - and © 1999 - S. Berliner, III)

Here's a more current shot of the real thing, the unit preserved at the U. S. Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland:

Atomic Cannon at APG
(Ordnance Museum Foundation Photo)

@ - As I had noted on my Schnabel railroad car page, I thought I had neglected to mention that the U. S. Army's 280mm Atomic Cannon was actually a road Schnabel (I had done so elsewhere on this page, now moved here).  I have an original Comet Metal Products AUTHENTICAST HO model; it turned up and I put the picture above.

[* - Actually, the model is in 1:108 (1" = 9') scale, not HO (1:87.1),
as were all of Comet's spotter models for the U. S. military.]
  rev (07 Dec 2012)


news-rt  -  Here's a fantastic Atomic Cannon site, with info., photos, drawings, and a 1:72 scale model to incredible detail; it is Paul Gaertner's The ATOMIC CANNON - Cold War Deterrent and I highly commend it to your attention.   new (09 Nov 2010)


11 & 14 Jan 2002 - I heard from the son of a sergeant "on a 280mm crew who was in Frankfurt from 1960-62/3 with the 82nd Artillery and was one of the drivers.  He has a lot of stories about the cannon and quite a few of them revolve around transporting it.  Seems they stuck it into the sides of more than one building.  He also still has a crease in his skull from the barrel dropping down on him.  It seems some nitwit pulled the locking pin without checking to see if anyone was in the way.  The barrel dropped a few inches and nailed him in the head.  He said if it wasn't for the mud on the ground, it probably would have killed or maimed him."  Unfortunately, this gentleman's photo album was filched from his footlocker, so no pix.  Well, it turns out that "it was someone else that had the barrel hit him in the head and was lucky he was standing in the mud.  He didn't see it, but had heard about it.  What happened to my dad was a separate incident.  While doing maintenance, some guy pulled the lock pin without announcing it.  My dad was standing on the ground next to the crank wheel that elevates the muzzle and when the muzzle fell, the wheel spun around and the handle nailed him in the head.  Knocked him out cold and left a small crease in his skull.  Kind of funny when you think about it....but lucky it didn't kill him."  "Said he had some pictures of the 280mm, carriage and transports, upside-down in a ditch.  Also had some pics of when the mechanism that retracts the muzzle for transport failed and shot the works out the back of the carriage."  Oh, would I love to get and post those purloined pix!

"Son of a Sergeant" - e-mail me; a man who was in C Battery, 265 FA BN, Baumholder, in January 1957, wants to get in touch.

On 12 May 2002, I heard from Gary R. Del Carlo (USA, Ret'd), who was with B Battery, 3rd Gun Battalion, 80th Artillery, stationed in Bamberg, Germany in 1960; A Battery was located in Schweinfurt, Germany.  In his own words {ever-so-slightly-edited, and annotated as italicized}:

- - - · - - -

"These were 280mm cannon.  While I was there, we never had a motor on the gun, so everything was manual.  I was 6' 2" then, so I stood on the ground while another guy stood on a platform, and we used the elevating crank to elevate and lower the tube.  The tube was taken in and out of battery (traveling position and firing position).  When bringing the tube back to the traveling position, the tube is brought back by a large cable.  It then comes to two large blocks with a hole in each.  Corresponding blocks on the tube match up with them so the holes match up.  Then a large pin is inserted into the hole, and a cotter pin slid in that.  The breech end of the tube is secure then.  Our training area was somewhere outside of Schweinfurt.  One day they were bringing the tube back into the traveling position, when the winch brought the tube back too far, and the tube went all the way out, and onto the ground {I sure wish I'd seen THAT!}.  That tube weighed thousands of pounds.  Luckily there was no one back there.  It sheared off the blocks that were attached to the gun.  They had to bring welders so they could attach two more blocks.  Then they had to bring a helicopter to lift the tube, and set it down on the gun.  I didn't have a camera back then so I don't have any pictures of this or of the gun itself {just our luck!}."

"While with the 80th Artillery, I never saw or heard of a gun tipping over on it's side, while turning {they did, in fact}.  There were walls knocked out by the B Unit (rear) while turning, though.  We went to Grafenwohr, Germany to fire the gun twice a year.  I believe they only fired twice, because the tube life wasn't very long, I understand.  The gun was set down on it's base.  There were anchors that were driven into the ground, and attached to the gun.  Still, when the gun was fired, it seemed that the entire gun lifted off of the ground.  You could actually see the round coming out of the tube {I can attest to that}, and it smelled like rotten eggs {normal smell of burned propellant}.  The person that fired the gun used a long lanyard. It was either 50 foot or 50 yards, I don't remember.  Probably 50 feet.  We were further away than that and we laid down with our hands over our earplugged ears.  They had to park the vehicles at a certain angle because if they weren't, the concussion would break the glass."

"Unlike other artillery pieces, the breech opened down, instead of to your right.  It took two crewmen to open the breech.  If I remember correctly, it called for a 21-man crew.  We never had that many, but you really didn't need that many to set up and fire the gun."

"The A Unit had two forks coming out the back.  The B Unit had two forks coming out the front.  On each end of the forks was a large link, like a chain link {a loop}. They attached under a down curved piece on either side of the ends of the gun.  Then they raised the gun up off the ground for traveling.  When the gun was lifted to a certain point, two square holes lined up with the gun and the Unit.  Then a very large wedge fitted in the holes, with a very large cotter pin through the wedges."

"We deactivated December 1960/January 1961."

- - - · - - -
Thanks, Gary!

More on the 280mm Atomic Cannon (moved from Ordnance page 1 on 26 Aug 2003):

Hal Hildebrecht (haltrvlr@aol.com) from Cleveland, Ohio, wrote 27 Sep 2002 that he was with the 868 FA BN at Fort Bragg and Baumholder, Germany, from 1953 to 1956 with the 280mm Atomic Cannon, serving as driver, cannoneer, artillery mechanic, and finally Section Chief.  He used to fire the piece with a 3' rope and then ride the carriage back into battery (nuts, just like me!) and is still surprised he can hear anything today.  He wrote again on 03 Oct 02 that may he have started the "Atomic Annie" nickname by painting names and pictures on all the battalian guns, Atomic Annie (with a witch riding a shell), L'il Ajax, Ye Olde Ironsides, etc.  His gun appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in October, 1953, and the name may have stuck from that.

Hal sent pictures but I couldn't download them; stay tuned.

Hal is the guy who has a copy of that picture of an inverted 280 with all the wheels in the air, after turning turtle in Germany; can't wait to see it again after all these years!

He also still has his 1958 Renwal model and sent a slew of pix; unfortunately, the lighting was poor, so I'll only show a representative few, cropped and at much lower resolution:

Renwal 280 03 Renwal 280 04
(Cropped and altered from photos by H. Hildebrecht - all rights reserved)

Renwal 280 05

Renwal 280 06 Renwal 280 07

Renwal 280 08 Renwal 280 09

Renwal 280 10 Renwal 280 11

Renwal 280 AT
(Cropped and altered from photos by H. Hildebrecht - all rights reserved)

There was a kit on eBay as I wrote this (03 Mar 2003), Item #3117941072, already over $150.00(!) with 8 hours to go!  Ludicrously, it's listed under "Toys & Hobbies:Models:Military:Air!  Hot, maybe.

Renwal 280 Kit

Here's a stein from C Battery, 265th Field Artillery Battalion in Baumholder, 1955-58:

At Cann Stein 1 At Cann Stein 2 At Cann Stein 3
[eBay Item #2160347750 - photos by, and with permission of, A. W. (seller), NL - all rights reserved.]

The stein is 9" high and bears the shield of the 265th, reading "Optimus Peromnia".

The 265th was renumbered the 868th sometime in 1957.   new.gif (06 Jan 06)

Incidentally, the 280 (11") is an odd caliber; the U. S. Army has (or had) a standard series of gun carriages and gun motor carriages in which the long gun and corresponding short howitzer shared all components except barrel, ammo, recoil, and equilibration.  They are noted on Ordnance Continuation Page 1.


While rummaging around in old photos, I ran across this sequence I took from the reviewing stand at Aberdeen Proving Ground at the Armed Forces Day Demonstration on 19 May 1956; they are labelled "Approach, Set Down, Remove Trucks, Fire, Pick Up, and Depart.  Unfortunately, that last is both out of focus and light-struck, so I excerpted a detail of the set moving away and another of a tall, ramrod-straight, distinguished white-haired civilian in the stand who I believe was my dearly belovèd professor (and department head) of Army ROTC at MIT in 1951-52, Col. (ret'd) Samuel Hall (my notes say he was in the stands that day):

At Can APG 19May56 - 1 - Approach

At Can APG 19May56 - 2 - Set Down

At Can APG 19May56 - 3 - Remove Trucks

At Can APG 19May56 - 4 - Fire

At Can APG 19May56 - 5 - Pick Up

At Can APG 19May56 - 6 - Depart

At Can APG 19May56 - 7 - Depart Detail At Can APG 19May56 - 8 - Sam Hall?
(19May56 photos by and © 1956, 2003 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

The whole procedure only took a few minutes and, as you can see, there's no 21 man crew, either - perhaps a half-dozen can do it!

Dig the officer in a Sam Brown belt at the top left rear in the stand!

I was there as a guest, this time, as a member of the American (formerly Army) Ordnance (and later Defense Preparedness) Association.

Something turned up from that review, that I had completely forgotten I (still) had, a gift from a Chrysler rep., this lapel pin:

1956ChryM48pin
[Photo by and © 2005 - S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved]

It shows an M48 Patton II tank (Chrysler-built) with the word "Chrysler" superposed where the return rollers should be.  I had already left Aberdeen when the M46 Patton was new and did not get to work on the M48 Patton II.  The pin measures ¾" long, overall.

On 07 Dec 2004, I heard from "the 280 mm Instructor at the Ordnance School, Aberdeen Proving Ground, in 1954 -1956 era", who advised that "the cannon barrel was produced at the Watertown Arsenal, Watertown, MA, now a Home Depot."; he was present at the Armed Forces Day May 1956 pictured above.


Not at all incidentally (it wasn't called the Atomic Cannon or Atomic Annie for nothing you know), this is what it was all about:

Live Firing 280
(Photo courtesy of Les Canons de l'Apocalypse - all rights reserved)

This was on 25 May 1953, when gun #9 fired the only live round ever, a 15 Kiloton weapon, at a distance of 17 miles (27 km) at the Nevada atomic test site; as best as I recall, this was the idiotic exercise where real, live (then) soldiers participated and were sent into the base of the mushroom cloud {wonder how they are today? - SB,III}.

Speaking of gun #9, "Atomic Annie" survives at the Artllery Museum at Fort Sill in Oklahoma; here she is in the background of a class picture taken for the 27 Oct 05 BNCOC (Basic Non Commissioned Officers Course) for SSG E-6:

AtomicAnnieFtSill05
[Photo courtesy of J. Jamison - all rights reserved]


Oddly, on Richard Seaman's fantastic Aviation Museum page [see also his great Air Shows page (this Kiwi gets around!)], I ran across another gun; this one, misidentified as "Atomic Annie" (maybe they're ALL called that, now), is sitting at the sadly-neglected Air Power Park in Hampton*, Virginia:

AtomicCanNorforkAPP
[Photo by, and courtesy of, R. Seaman, by permission - artificially lightened - all rights reserved]

That barrel looks so odd I hardly recognized the piece; what are all those barrel bands all about?

[Good grief - could that be my other toy, the smaller "missing" towed 175mm "Baby Atomic Cannon"?]

* - The park was misidentified as being in Norfolk and then in Hampton but it's in neither!  it actually sits in Newport News' Huntington Park next to the Virginia War Museum.  Per the curator at the Museum (thank you), it is a prototype atomic cannon which was never fielded and features a 240mm tube on a carriage designed for a 280mm weapon.

Here's a crop of a photo of the piece on "mrbrkly"'s Flickr page; note it's behind a fence now:

240mmCanNewportNews
(click on thumbnail for larger image)
[Cropped from photo by "mrbrkly" - all rights reserved]

The plaque in front yields this information (per "mrbrkly" - not necessarily an exact quotation):

"The 240mm gun provided a bridge between conventional cannons and the atomic cannons.  In November 1944, the U.S. Army decided to develop a 240mm gun superior to the standard 8-inch and 240mm howitzers.  The Frankfort Institute@ was charged by the by the Office of Ordinance{sic} with the design of the gun and mount in October 1946.  Watervliet Arsenal was contracted for the manufacture of the gun and Watertown Arsenal was responsible for the construction of the gun carriage.  Two prototype guns were produced by 1950 and testing began.  The 240mm gun and carriage weighed 94,000 pounds and had {a} range of 18 miles.

The 240mm gun project was placed in inactive status with the development of the 280mm gun in May 1950.  The 208mm gun was designed to be a heavier companion piece to the 240mm T1.  Both guns were designed to be interchangeable on the 280mm T72 gun carriage.  The 280mm incorporated many of the design features of the 240mm especially in the breech, which was modified to fit the jacket and tube assembly and other minor changes to improve functioning and safety.  The research and testing done on the 240mm T1 gun led to the creation of the 280mm T131 atomic cannon.

To move the gun carriage, two hydraulic prime movers were developed.  These vehicles were positioned at both ends of the carriage and used a hydraulic system to lift the the gun and carriage.

Both the 240mm and the 280mm guns had a crew of 13 to 15 men.  None of these experimental pieces saw combat.  Advances in rocket guidance and trajectory systems relegated the big guns to quick obsolesce."   new (23 Nov 2010)

@ - I wonder if that shouldn't read "Frankford Arsenal" instead of "Franklin Institute"?

RATS!  I had so hoped it was "my" 175.


280mm Cannoneers - see this site:

    42nd FA Bn, USAREUR.


Much more on the Atomic Cannon follows on the Atomic Cannon Pictures Page.


I found three fantastic sites with coverage of the 280 and of AFVs and also one with coverage of superguns; I started a new, separate page on the latter.  The sites are:

    Les Canons de l'Apocalypse (The Cannons of the Apocalypse), in French, as noted above,

    AFV Database, and

    JED Military Enthusiasts Directory

and

    Encyclopedia Astronautica - Gun-Launched.


Atomic Cannon CQ (Seek You = HELP!)

A correspondent thought that the atomic shells were carried to the gun by a converted jeep and asked for information on this jeep but I don't recall any such.  None appears on my 19 May 1956 photo sequence of setup, firing, and knock-down at APG (above) and those shells were 600 lbs each, with 158 lbs for each full powder charge, so a ¼-ton truck wouldn't have been of much use.  Even beefed up, it would have only carried one shell and charge, let alone more than one set. Can anyone set us straight on how the shells and charges were carried to the guns?   (12 Oct 2006)

The son of an Atomic Cannoneer seeks information on his father's unit, "C" Battery, 868th Field Artillery Battalion; any help will be appreciated (08 Dec 04).

Others have written me for help reaching buddies.  I am not a canoneer and am not willing to serve as a clearinghouse for you guys to get together; if there is a central website or e-address, please advise me and I will happily post it here.

PLEASE - if you know anything at all about one of "my" Baby Atomic Cannons, the 175mm Towed Mount, let me know; pictures would be greatly appreciated.  It looked just like the big M65 when set up on the ground for firing but had a fifth-wheel pin under the front end (I don't recall if it sat directly on a 5-ton 6x6 or on a two-wheel dolly and a removable (or retractable) one or two axle bogie under the rear.  Here's a rough image of how I recall it looking when set up:for travel

Towed175mmBabyAtomicCannon2
(07 Dec 2012 sketch by and © 2012 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

I'd no sooner doctored up that image of a possible road configuration than I found this older sketch of a firing configuration.  One problem of memory is that I may have the bogie arrangement confused with those of the towed 40mm AA single Bofors, 75mm Skysweeper AA, 120mm AA, or 155mm gun/8" howitzer.

Someone, somewhere, besides me, must know about that gun (the museums don't, although Ft. Sill may have the barrel)!

Oh, yes, they do; see the 175mm "Baby" Atomic Cannon Towed Mount Page.   added (08 Jan 2015)


I commend to you the excellent Atomic Cannon site of Paul Gaertner.   new (08 Jan 2015)


The ORDNANCE Main Page had to be split; it continues on ORDNANCE Continuation Page 1, et seq.



[Continued on Ordnance Atomic Cannon Continuation Page 1).]



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LEGACY

  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.

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